How Profiles Help Us Moderate Sphinn

February 15th, 2010 by Matt McGee

profile

Chances are good that you’ve heard link builders and SEO say that it’s important, when building links, to make it look natural. You don’t want to suddenly get too many links from similar sources, too many links of the same type, too many links in a short period of time, and so forth. That can set off a red flag, and if your site gets a manual review, unnatural link building efforts can cause problems. Variety is important, the experts say — links from different sources, links with different anchor text, etc.

The same idea applies in social media, and it’s important here on Sphinn. Let me explain…

The Spam/Junk Problem

Every day, the Sphinn mods and admin teams review dozens of new submissions and user accounts in our efforts to prevent spam and low-quality content from getting into the site, and to eliminate the stuff that does make it through. Some spam/junk is really easy to spot.

But some isn’t so easy. We regularly have internal discussions about what to do with a certain news story that was submitted, or what to do with a certain user — these are cases where it’s not so obvious if we should delete the story and/or terminate the user’s account. In cases like this, there are a number of things we consider before deciding what to do.

One of the questions I always ask is, Is the user here because s/he wants to contribute to the Sphinn community, or is s/he here only for self-promotion — to get something from the community? That answer is often found in the user’s Sphinn profile.

Why Your Sphinn Profile Matters

In most cases, your Sphinn profile gives away your true intentions. We generally look at the user’s history of submits and their history of sphinns (votes).

A good profile includes:

  • stories submitted from a variety of sites
  • high-quality stories submitted, with few discards
  • votes/sphinns for stories from a variety of sites
  • votes/sphinns for high-quality stories

A poor profile might include:

  • stories submitted from only the user’s site, or only from his/her friends
  • lots of low-quality submits that had to be discarded
  • votes/sphinns only for stories from the user’s site, or only for friends
  • votes/sphinns for low-quality stories

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t checked your profile in a while, why not have a look now? On the main site, click on the “Profile” link at the top right of the page. Then click the “Submits” and “Sphinns” tabs to see what you’ve added to Sphinn and what you’ve voted for.

Much like link-building, a variety of submits and sphinns is a Good Thing to have in your Sphinn profile. A user who only submits stuff from his/her own site, or only votes up his/her own stories — or only votes up stuff from close friends — isn’t really participating on Sphinn in the truest sense of community and social media. And, if we’re trying to decide what to do with a story or an entire user account, what we see in the user’s profile often makes a hard decision much easier.

Was Sphinn A Top Referrer For You, Too?

January 13th, 2010 by Matt McGee

I was curious a few days ago. On my own blog, I had recently posted a recap of my 2009 analytics, which included the news that Sphinn was my blog’s sixth-best source of referral traffic. I was surprised by that because, to be frank, I didn’t concentrate as much on submitting my own stories to Sphinn in 2009 as I had in 2008. On the other hand, two of my blog posts are in the top six on Sphinn’s greatest hits, so maybe that’s why referral traffic stayed so strong last year.

Curious to see if my peers in the search blogosphere (hate that word!) were also seeing good referral numbers from Sphinn, I sent out a few emails and asked on Twitter if anyone wanted to volunteer to share some of their 2009 referral stats. Some replied saying they didn’t have enough posts “go hot” to get lots of traffic from Sphinn. Others, however, mirrored my situation with Sphinn continuing to be a Top 10 source of referral traffic. Consider these replies, listed in no particular order:

  • Dream Systems Media blog — Sphinn was the #6 referrer in 2009, responsible for just under 3,900 visits
  • SEMpdx blog — Sphinn was the #3 referrer, with just over 2,000 visits
  • Search Engine Journal — Sphinn was a Top 10 referrer, sending more than 69,000 visits in 2009
  • Local SEO Guide — Sphinn was the 8th-best referrer, sending just over 1,800 visits
  • Audette Media blog — Sphinn was the #5 referrer in 2009, sending just under 600 visits
  • Graywolf’s SEO blog — Sphinn wasn’t in the Top 10 referrers, but still sent more than 6,300 visits last year
  • Understanding Google Maps & Local Search — Sphinn was the 6th-highest source of referral traffic, sending more than 1,300 visits
  • Wiep.net — Sphinn ranked #7 in referral sources in 2009, and sent just over 2,000 visits
  • SEO Gadget — Sphinn was the #2 referrer with just over 5,300 visits in 2009

I’m happy to see that our users — folks with big blogs, small blogs, US-based blogs, Europe-based blogs, etc. — are still getting rewarded for their activity on Sphinn with a nice chuck of traffic to their blogs. Well done, folks.

Another Reason to Follow Sphinn on Twitter

January 12th, 2010 by Matt McGee

Are you following @sphinn on Twitter?

Until now, our Twitter account has been used primarily for sending out alerts after a story has “gone hot” — i.e., reached the home page. But we want our users to also be aware of the great content on Sphinn before it goes hot. So, we’re now using our Twitter account to post when stories are picking up votes on Sphinn and “getting hot.” We started this last night, with tweets like this one:

Picture 1

Once we settle in to this new routine, the plan is to send out alerts via Twitter when your submitted stories get 7 and 15 votes. If we know the Twitter account of the person who submitted the story, we’ll include it in our tweet (if space allows) so that you can let your followers know by re-tweeting it. Of course, we’ll also continue to tweet when a story reaches the home page.

So if you see a little more activity in our Twitter feed going forward, this is why. And if you’re not already following @sphinn on Twitter, why not start now?

(And one more good idea: If you’re on Twitter, make sure your Twitter username is included in your Sphinn profile so we can give you credit when your submits are getting hot.)

Introducing Sphinn’s New Guidelines

January 6th, 2010 by Matt McGee

Hey Sphinners — heads up that we’ve just posted new Sphinn Guidelines that explain the policies we use to manage this community. I’ll highlight some of the important changes below, but please do take a few moments to read the entire set of guidelines.

Longtime members should know that Sphinn began by operating under what Danny Sullivan called his Common Sense Law. In the beginning, the approach was “to have as few rules as possible and build them up organically as they seem to be needed.” As the Sphinn community has grown, we’ve built up those guidelines into what is now a more complete set of Do’s and Don’ts.

Here are some of the new things that I think are worth highlighting:

  • That “Common Sense Law” is now part of the site guidelines. We want all users to consider if their behavior is in the best interests of the community.
  • Submitted stories should have a date on them; undated stories may be removed from the site. You’ll find this under #2 in “News Submission Do’s.”
  • Submitted stories should be non-promotional. This is #5 in “News Submission Do’s.” We’ve clarified this in response to comments from some users that the previous guidelines weren’t clear enough. As part of this, we may consider users who only submit their own stories to be spamming Sphinn. We want users to actively use Sphinn and promote all good content, not just their own.
  • We won’t allow submitted stories to have special URLs with tracking codes just for Sphinn. This is #6 in “News Submission Don’ts.”
  • We’ve clarified the language on how we’ll handle stories that get multiple votes from the same IP address. This is #3 under “Voting.” Companies with several Sphinn members participating from a single IP address should be extra cautious when using Sphinn.

As I said, those are some highlights of the new Sphinn Guidelines. The page as a whole has been re-organized and is hopefully easier to read and follow.

We want everyone to have an enjoyable experience on Sphinn, to find and share excellent content about internet marketing, and to have valuable discussions with industry peers.

Sphinn Open For Submissions Again

January 4th, 2010 by Matt McGee

Just a quick note that, as promised, the Submit News page is open again on Sphinn. And members have already begun populating the Hot or Not? page with stories.

So, happy new year from all of us at Sphinn — and get busy submitting new stories and voting up existing ones!

– Matt

Sphinn Submissions on Holiday for New Year’s Weekend

December 30th, 2009 by Matt McGee

Heads up, Sphinn users: Our Submit News form will be on holiday this weekend in honor of New Year’s 2010. The site itself will be up and you’ll be able to read, vote, and comment on existing stories — but you won’t be able to submit new stories for a few days. We expect the “Submit News” form to be down from around 5:00 pm PT on December 31st through about 9:00 am PT on Monday, January 4th.

Why?, I hear you wondering. It’s pretty simple: Over the Christmas weekend, we found that just about the only things being submitted to Sphinn were spam. Since we’re expecting the New Year’s weekend to be similar, we’ve decided to just turn the submission form off for a few days.

While I have your attention, here are a couple other things I can share about what’s coming in the days, weeks, and months ahead:

  • In response to some questions from users, we’re working on rewriting the Sphinn Guidelines to make them more clear. Look for that in the near future.
  • We’re planning some new things that will promote popular stories on Sphinn even before they’ve reached the home page.
  • We’re planning some minor changes to site navigation scheme, again with the goal of promoting the quality content you’ve submitted even before it goes hot on the home page.
  • I plan to use the blog more in 2010 to communicate with Sphinn users, so feel free to bookmark the blog and/or add it to your RSS reader. I hope to write about some of the fun (and not-so-fun) aspects of managing a diverse online community like we have, maybe share some advice on how to get more out of Sphinn, and perhaps open up the floor for users to suggest great stories that deserve to be on the home page even though they didn’t get enough votes.

That’s all for now. On behalf of the Sphinn moderators and admin team, thanks for your participation in 2009 and we’re looking forward to seeing you around more in 2010. Happy New Year!

- Matt

Introducing Sphinn’s New Editor, Matt McGee

December 1st, 2009 by Matt McGee

It’s a real treat to write this. As Rob mentioned in his goodbye post, I’m now taking over for him as Sphinn Editor for at least the next few months. Rob, thank you for giving the Sphinn community so much of your time and energy over the past couple years. It’s been a pleasure being a mod under your leadership.

As Editor, my job is to keep an eye on the site, support the rest of the Sphinn crew, and help the community when needed. I’ll be working closely with the moderators to make sure we’re providing a valuable experience for all our users, new and old. I’ll be working with the admin and development team to continue growing the site. It was just a month ago that the new Sphinn came out of beta, but we’ll continue to discuss, debate, and implement new ideas to make the site better.

This is a treat for me because I’ve been active on Sphinn since the site launched, because I think it’s a needed community site for online marketers, and because I get to work even more closely with the excellent Sphinn moderators and the great folks at Third Door Media.

I’ve been managing forums, message boards, and other online communities for the better part of 15 years now, but I consider Sphinn unique in so many ways. Sites like this have come and gone over the past couple years, but Sphinn has survived. I’m excited about the challenges and opportunities to come as the site’s Editor, and I hope you’ll welcome me warmly while also wishing Rob the best with all of his other endeavors.

Rob Kerry Stepping Down As Sphinn Editor

December 1st, 2009 by evilgreenmonkey

I’m sad to announce that I will be stepping down as Editor of Sphinn as of today, having joined the site back in 2007. It was a hard decision to make, although I do not feel that I’ll have enough time to dedicate to the site as we move into 2010.

A number of recent personal events made me realise the importance of leisure time, which is not a luxury that I currently possess. The SEO Consultancy that I co-founded, Ayima, is also expanding at a rate that I could not have imagined. The growth is fantastic, but it also restricts my ability to give Sphinn the time and attention that it deserves. Last but not least, a slowly developing network of Affiliate sites and web apps have also been keeping me busy.

I really appreciate Danny offering me the job of managing Sphinn after I left Search Engine Watch – it was a great opportunity to build a site with so much potential. Working with Michelle Robbins, the Geek Goddess, was also an absolute pleasure – along with the rest of the Third Door Media team and mighty Moderators.

You haven’t seen the last of me yet though – I will continue to take part in Sphinn as a Moderator, helping to police and guide the site as much as I can.

In my absence, I’m pleased to announce a new Editor for Sphinn – the much respected Matt McGee. Matt is already a Sphinn Moderator and involved in Sphinn’s sister site, Search Engine Land. I’m sure that Matt will do a fantastic job and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming him in his follow-up post on the Sphinn blog.

Bye Bye Beta, Hello Members!

November 2nd, 2009 by evilgreenmonkey

Betamax to Blu-ray
You may have noticed quite a few changes happening to Sphinn over the last few weeks (and months). Firstly, we completely scrapped our old Pligg-based platform, and started again from scratch. More recently, we have made changes to the user experience, spam filtering and got rid of some of those pesky bugs. We have also now removed the Beta label that Sphinn previously sheltered under, pushing it out into the big wide world. :)

Editor’s Picks
In order to keep the homepage of Sphinn fresh and bring important industry announcements to our readers first, the Editors of Sphinn may occasionally push stories to the homepage before they reach the usual “Hot” requirements. Consideration for neutrality and importance will be taken before this takes place and is designed to improve Sphinn’s user experience. We hope to clearly mark stories that have been pushed to the homepage by an Editor in the near future.

Video SubmissionsUpdated 11/09/2009
Video submissions are not allowed, unless the video content is also accompanied by a summary of the main points said in the video. This is to help ensure members voting up video content actually understand what’s in it. It also helps moderators who need to review for spam or quality issues. In some extraordinary cases, video content from extremely trusted sources or which has gathered much online commentary will be allowed.

Sphinn Membership
The biggest change to Sphinn that you’ll notice, is a “Forums” and “Members Only” tab on the top navigation bar. These 2 sections form part of a very exciting new Sphinn Members offering! Members will have access to a much wider range of premium features than standard Sphinn Users, including:

  • Members-only Discussion Forum – a private Internet Marketing discussion area, closed off from the spiders, bots and outside world.
  • Live Chat – don’t clutter up your Twitter feed, chat directly and instantly with other internet marketers in this private and specialist environment.
  • Members Directory – Find and follow “the ones to watch” on Sphinn, with our searchable directory of Sphinn Members.
  • Top Sphinners – Sort and filter our private league table of top Sphinners to add to your network.
  • Member Banner – Show your support for Sphinn and the internet marketing community, with a Member’s banner displayed under your avatar.

So become a Sphinn Member today and engage with the internet marketing world!

Sphinn v2 – The Next Generation

July 13th, 2009 by evilgreenmonkey

First of all apologies for the downtime today, although hopefully you’ll all think that it was worth it. Today we have launched a brand new platform for Sphinn, moving away from the old open source Pligg-based software and over to a bespoke, all-singing, all-dancing, Sphinn v2. This week is the public beta.

You may notice some great new changes, including:

  • Cleaner design, taking aspects from our sister site at Search Engine Land
  • The removal of the “Discussion” option for submissions (not many people used it, and most were confused by it)
  • My Network – Friend and follow the people you like
  • “Show Me” Filters – Only show submissions from My Network, or your favourite categories
  • Subscribe/Unsubcribe to stories that you’re interested in, with email notifications
  • Save stories that you enjoyed or want to come back to
  • My Sphinn – A one-stop dashboard for your network, important topics and an expanding list of blog content

We have also introduced much more sophisticated spam filtering, with greater control for moderators. This should reduce spam submissions and also allow our team to respond to issues much quicker.

A “Members” section will also be launching shortly, with Private Discussions, Live Chat and a Members-Only directory.

There’s so much to mention, although we’ll let you have a snoop around and discover for yourself. Let us know what you like, what you don’t like and if you find any bugs or gremlins in the system. We hope that you’ll love Sphinn v2 and thanks for being patient whilst we perfected some of these much needed features.

PS. We’d appreciate it if you could take a minute to update your profile and make sure that an avatar is uploaded.

Cheers,

Rob Kerry
evilgreenmonkey
Sphinn Editor

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